Paul Krugman returned to the debate with me about federal spending in his New York Times column yesterday. He says that federal spending cannot be brought back from its current high levels to the 19 to 20 percent range as a share of GDP, which we saw as recently as 2007. His argument consists of two points.
He declares that military spending as a share of GDP cannot go down. Why? Because, he says, “Republicans, needless to say, oppose.” But as I wrote when he first made this point, defense spending as a share of GDP can come down. And it could come down by an especially large amount as the size of GDP increases with higher economic growth. Krugman is taking defense off the table, not me, and not Republicans who are part of the budget debate in Washington. And he does not mention economic growth.
Krugman also points out that the number of retirees is projected to grow at a more rapid rate than the number of workers paying taxes. This point should not come as a surprise to anyone. But the implication is not that we should tax working people more. Rather the implication is that we should insist that programs like Medicare be reformed to improve their efficiency and deliver improved outcomes for future retirees for each tax dollar spent.
(photo credit: Border Pictures)